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Still no reviewer appointed for Belongership reform

Still no reviewer appointed for Belongership reform

After coming to an agreement with the United Kingdom (UK) government months ago on steps needed to address urgent Commission of Inquiry (COI)-recommended reforms in the territory, the two sides are yet to settle on someone responsible for overseeing one of the most controversial tasks.
Recommendation B33, arising from the COI report suggested that the Cabinet, including the governor, appoint a ‘suitable reviewer’ to address the concerns related to residency and belongership in the BVI.

“We have not yet appointed a reviewer. The governor and I have to agree on a reviewer … That hasn’t been done as yet. I hope that that will be done shortly,” Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley told reporters at a recent press conference.

In the COI report recommended that the review could be led by a senior public officer and said as part of that review, the position concerning the length of residence required before becoming eligible for Belongership based on tenure should be clarified and confirmed by statute.

The framework agreement for implementation of the COI recommendations stipulated that the review of the existing policy and processes for granting residency and belongership status should have begun by September 1.

A completed report by the reviewer is expected to be submitted by November 30 and this report is expected to presented to the governor and the Premier.

Premier Wheatley did not give any indication as to what may have led to the delay in arriving at a ‘suitable reviewer’ or whether he and the governor had arrived at an impasse over the situation.

After employing a policy for years of a 20-year residency requirement before Belongership applications can be considered, the government recently reversed this policy and committed to adopting a 10-year residency requirement instead; which is in line with what the existing law prescribes.

Cabinet, according to the agreement, is expected to approve and enact recommendations of the public officer-led review by January 31, 2023.

Meanwhile, Premier Wheatley, in a statement issued recently, noted that both the government and the governor have been guilty of lapses in meeting deadlines identified in the framework agreement.

Furthermore, Dr Wheatley has consistently argued that the status of belongership is not a right for migrant workers or others who have met the qualification to apply, but simply a privilege granted by the government.

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